A Feeling of Belonging: Asian American Women's Public Culture, 1930-1960

By Shirley Jennifer Lim | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Shortly after the demise of Scene magazine, in 1955 the Saturday Evening Post published an article on “California's Amazing Japanese” that echoed Scene's main theme: negating the racial hatreds that brought about internment by demonstrating liberal-democratic ideal consumer citizenship. The Saturday Evening Post profiled model Japanese American citizens and used that as evidence to condemn internment. Mainstream society thus mirrored Asian American aspirations for cultural citizenship.

Changing American immigration laws had profound implications for Asian American cultural citizenship. The dominance of the Americanborn generations that had begun in the 1930s, which had started to change with the immigration of war brides, made a decisive shift. The Immigration Act of 1965 opened up migration from Asia that set the stage for the numbers of the immigrant-born to surpass the American-born generations. This act was a result of Cold War politics in which the Soviet Union and other countries condemned the United States' racialized immigration policies based on national origin that contradicted liberal democracy. What the 1965 law did was to introduce a new immigration preference system based on education, skills, and family reunification. In one of those glorious moments of unintended consequences, the proponents of the act predicted that immigration would mirror the current populations residing in the United States. They were wrong. People from Asia took overwhelming advantage of the 1965 act to immigrate to the United States. As a result, Asian American populations, which had shifted to American-born beginning in 1930, reconfigured to being majority foreign-born. Thus, with direct consequences for American cultural citizenship, people of Asian descent became reracialized as foreigners.

The model minority myth is an especially pernicious example of how a racial minority group cannot control the reception of the performance of cultural citizenship. Dominant society constructed the Cold War model minority myth to prove that America was not a racist country because

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